The Suitcase-Packing Tip Every Expert Recommends To Me

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The night before every vacation I inevitably find myself sitting squarely in the middle of a pile of clothes. Despite my best intentions to start my packing ahead of time, I can't really convince myself to get it together until the last minute. Over the last few years as a fashion editor, I've asked experts advice for mastering the art of packing for travel, and there's one common I hear over and over again explained as the best suitcase packing tip: Learn to pack in outfits. Explains Ally Betker, Editorial Director of Away, "It’s better to plan outfits in advance so you don’t arrive to wherever you’re going and realize you hate everything you’ve chosen, or that it doesn’t look quite like you hoped."

I tend to consider myself an emotional dresser; I wake up in the morning and wear what feels right rather than pulling an outfit together in a more practical manner — like throwing on something I picked out the night before. As such, I've always bucked the idea of planning my ensembles too far in advance, because more likely than not, I'll change my mind. When it comes time to pack for a trip, my usual method is to throw a bunch of things I like into a suitcase and hope for the best, not exactly a rational method of getting things together.

But, last month I found myself once again heading out of town, this time for Milan Fashion Week. Since I'd spend my five days doing my best to impress my cohorts with my outfits, it seemed like a perfectly appropriate time to once again try my hand and packing in a practical manner.

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"If you roughly plan your outfits (with a few extra shirts and pairs of underwear), you’ll usually end up shedding a bunch of extra items as you’re packing," explains Betker, recommending you come up with shells of outfits, rather than entire head-to-toe looks. "You’ll save time getting ready when you’re traveling so you can actually enjoy the trip you’re on." This concept, packing loosely in outfits was exactly what I had in mind. A way to pull together what I needed without fully committing to a head-to-toe look.

Taking into account crucial factors, (namely the 80-degree temperatures and the extensive number of miles I'd be walking every day) I began to lay out an ensemble for each day. I know this seems simple enough, but I still found myself struggling to commit — what if I wanted to wear snakeskin instead of leopard, or prefer sneakers to mules? I made sure to pack a few easy-to-style staples, and forced myself to pick a rough outfit idea for each day. Upon my arrival in Italy, not only was I grateful for the fact that my suitcase wasn't a 50-pound behemoth, I also felt that once the time came to put looks together, it was refreshingly un-stressful.

Bottom line: I may not be sold on breaking out every outfit exactly, but some added structure can streamline packing and make time on vacation all the more enjoyable. Read on to shop my outfit picks for your next getaway (but don't feel bad if you want to swap a piece or two last minute).

For Exploring

For a day spent exploring a new city, the ideal outfit straddles style and comfort. Sneakers or flat shoes are a must, and you'll want to make sure you have the layers necessary to change as you warm up or cool off through all your activity.

For An Evening Out

Planning ahead for one fancy dinner or night on the town requires an ensemble centered around a classic LBD. Add a pair of statement shoes, and a cute bag and no matter what occasion you find yourself dressing up for, you'll be set.

For A Museum Day

What vacation is complete without a trip to a local cultural haunt, like a gallery or art museum. For such an occasion you'll want to have an outfit ready that's polished without feeling overly fancy. A blouse, skirt, and comfy pair of boots make for an ideal combination.

For A Little Exercise

I'm the type to plan for a workout when I travel out of town, so I always pack leggings and sneakers. Whether I have the chance to take a hike, or can quickly take a pilates class, having the right gear for a short sweat session is highly necessary.